Undercurrents 2015: Marathon offers a surreal aesthetic that leaves a haunting resonance.

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

Marathon is the type of performance that will leave you with more questions than answers. The staging is simple: Three people (self-acknowledged actors) dressed in running gear run around a stage. They have begun even before we have arrived. We are asked to sit on all four sides of the stage, looking in on their Beckettian, goalless task as it unfolds for an hour and a half. A projection is cast onto the stage floor: “42.2 K” – the distance of a marathon.

The narrative of the show is developed in waves – little by little, the three characters reveal themselves to be burdened and bound to their nationality. They are actors in a never-ending race, just as they are actors performing their day to day lives as Israeli citizens. And though their stories are distinct, the show arrives at some deeply revealing commonalities: The role of religion, language, the national service, and a deeply ingrained sense of duty.

The first “wave” of this performance introduces abstracted movements tied to words that capture these weighty aspects of their national identity: “Shiskas”, “Hora”, “Grenade”, “Any weapon?”, or “Remember”, for example. Any character might utter any of these words, and then perform a gesture that compliments the word. Here, a visual language begins to emerge. These word-gesture combinations capture an important paradox: They are both mundane aspects of day-to-day life, and yet essential to their identities.

The performance is perhaps as close to theatre as it is to dance. That is to say, that it is equally both and yet essentially neither. The show employs gesture and dialogue, repetition and improvisation, to reveal the mechanical aspects of national identity; those items that write themselves into your unconscious without your knowing. Duty, shame, heritage and identity all collide, giving rise to moments of frenetic panic and great unrest.

It is smartly conceived show that likens the trudging, unquestioning, and mechanical pace of the marathon runner to their duty-bound sense of national identity. The performance will disappoint those seeking traditional narrative progression. However, though it lacks a clearly defined structure, it offers a time-warped, placeless, and surreal aesthetic that leaves a haunting resonance.

Concept & direction by Aharona Israel

Text by Aharona Israel, Asa Wolfson & the performers

Performed by Ilya Domanov, Merav Dagan & Gal Shamai


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